Dad’s old hatchet…

A couple months back in the process of moving my mother to a new home closer to us, I stumbled across an old hatchet head that was my dad’s. I remember him using it many times when I was a young buck and seeing it brought back a lot of memories. I remember his frustration at trying to teach me how to hoe a row in the garden only to realize I was never gonna get it. Surely it had nothing to do with the fact that he was left handed and I am right handed so every thing I did to copy him turned out backwards. I remember going into the woods in Lincoln county near my mom’s old home place to cut saplings to use for stakes for the butter beans, tomatoes, and other goodies he was so adept at growing in his massive backyard garden.  So when I saw the hatchet it was a quick decision and a declarative statement to my mother that “I found this hatchet, I’m taking it. Thanks.” This was something of his and special to me.

My dad was a good man and had a lot of talents. He could grow anything. I tell people often I would swear he could put pencils in the ground and grow pine trees if you wanted him to. He also had a knack for putting a keen edge on tools and this hatchet head was no different. He would put an amazing edge on that hatchet and could go through a one inch sapling in one shot and then would use the back side to hammer those same saplings into the tiled earth to assist in bringing forth it’s bounty. So sharp was the edge on this hatchet that in the process of doing the cord work on it, I bumped the bottom corner of the edge with my knuckle. It eased out a sesame seed size bit of skin leaving it sitting on the side of the edge. So clean was the cut it didn’t even bleed. This hatchet head had been sitting in a shed for at least 14 years, he’s been dead that long, and could still cut that easily.

As soon as I had the hatchet head I knew what I wanted to do. I knew dad had put a great edge on that hatchet and I knew he had shown me well enough to be able to keep that in great shape .  I bought another handle for it and thought I would make it my go to hatchet for car camping and the like.

This is what I ended up with. The wrapping on the handles is my doing. I added a tubing stay to the top locking it in with friction tape and the paracord bindings. The Coxcombing (spiral hitching) is in honor of his Navy service and it looks cool, adds to the gripping power and the Turks head knots are more decorative. The black ones, however, are done with a reflective paracord. Should be nice to have when grabbing the hatchet at night to add the fire or whatever else needs to be done.

Dad's hatchet (1)

Hatchett head (1) Handle knots (1) Reflective qualities (1)

I know my dad would have given me the business about putting all the fancy stuff on the handle of something meant to be so functional. That was just his way. As a family we love to crack on each other. Few things are off limits and the sensitive need not apply or participate. You know we like you because we pick at you. If we don’t it’s because we won’t waste our time, effort or considerable talents thinking of ways to gig you just a bit so we can put our arm around you after and pull you close and let you know you’re worth the mental gymnastics we invested into your particular torment. Privately though, in a quiet moment with my mom more than likely, he would share how proud he was of the work and thought I put into it.

It’s an old hatchet head. Nothing more than a hunk of steel with an edge on it. Penned over back edge showing the years of service and sacrifice it put into the life of my father, but it’s a part of him. His hands touched that, his sweat fell on it, his care and focus were centered on it if only long enough to hone the edge to make it so effective in its intended purpose. In it lays the beauty of form, function, toil, growth, purpose and hope. My dad gave us all of those things and so much more.

I’ll be proud to use it, proud to tell the story and proud to hand this to my son’s son some day. A hatchet. Cutting through the years to sharpen the heritage of a family and drive it firmly into the soil where our roots run so deep.

Satisfaction

They say you never forget your first love.  I remember fondly the auburn haired girl I meet while working and living in the Netherlands while in college, the first Huffy dirt bike I ever had, the 69′ Chevelle I learned to drive in, and the first time I slept in a hammock.  Admittedly, the hammock is awesome, though not the same heart palpitations I had from the auburn haired beauty in Holland.  No, it’s a different kind of bliss to be sure. One more akin to the the familiar, comforting hug of a mother. A secure serenity that leaves one rested, relaxed and supremely satisfied with all things woodsy and primitive.

I have been longing for cooler temps and was profoundly blessed this past weekend with overnight lows in the lower 50s.  A rarity for central Mississippi even in early October. The spousal unit and I went to a movie and late dinner that night. I had to make sure the home front was well taken care of prior to slipping off to the hammock for the night. One has to keep the main thing the main thing. It didn’t take long to hunker down to a very nice and sound sleep.

That’s the beauty of a hammock to me. The sleep. It is like none other that I experience. It should be noted that I’m a milkman’s kid. Subsequently, I spent many a summer running the route with my daddy and therefore became indoctrinated into the mid nocturnal goings on of that profession. To say I’m an early riser would be painting it lightly, very lightly.  Any day of the week sleeping in the Simmons Beautyrest in the house, I’m up, no alarm, 5 a.m. without fail.  Put me in a hammock and I won’t stir until 7 a.m. at best.  It’s that soundness of sleep that is so amazing. Couple that with the tendency to, while camping, go to bed at hiker midnight (just after sundown, usually going to sleep around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.) and you see not only the quality of sleep but the quantity also.  I can, and do regularly, function on an average of 5 to 6 hours sleep but the hammock refuses to be such a cruel mistress to me. She insists that I linger in rapturous REM mode far longer than any other place I close my eyes in rest.

So a great nights of sleeping in the out of doors was had that Friday night.  There was the bonus of a very sweet 2 hour nap on Sunday afternoon as well. An eager start to the hammock season and one I hope to take full advantage of through the end of this year and well into next in a complete state of satisfaction.

Waiting….

As I sit in my office and the heat and humidity that is central Mississippi weather continues to reign, I find myself longing for the cool of Autumn and the opportunity to escape into the piney woods once more for my beloved hammock time.

I have been at this hammock camping thing for just about two years now and I can firmly and without fear of misguided delusion say that, I am a cool temp camper. Unless the overnight temp is around 60° or below, I’m not interested. By overnight temp I mean at dark of the night it needs to be getting close to the low 60s otherwise it’s not cool enough for my tastes.

This past year starting at Christmas of 2013, I slept outdoors every weekend straight until somewhere around mid to late April. A record I hope to destroy as soon as it cools down. Because of the colder than normal winter this year, I was able to set a personal record low temp hang of 21°. We had several nights where the temps got into the single digits but they happened during the week and I was unable to take advantage of the opportunity.

Everyone, well, most everyone, thinks I’m loco in la cabeza but given I have the proper equipment and have done it so much, it really isn’t that big a deal. As to low temperature camping I know others who have slept out in temps as low as -25° (yes that is a dash denoting a negative temperature rating on the Fahrenheit scale). Admittedly, not something I am Jonesing for but if the opportunity presented itself I would have to seriously consider a go.
My brother-in-law still finds it unfathomable that I do this. I know that if I could just get him in a camping hammock once, he’d be a ready convert. Not likely to go cold like me but a hanger none the less.

So the nightly vigil has begun. Sitting watching the news looking at the long range forecast. Asking the spousal unit if we already have plans for the weekend, Plotting, scheming, hoping, praying, for cooler temps and good timing for me to hit the hammock once more. That suspended bliss. That elevated perspective. That perpendicular pronunciation of all things rested, relaxed and recreational. Whether in the piney woods, the national forest or the friendly confines of my own backyard, there is no greater sanctuary for my batter bones and beleaguered brain than the hammock.

Can someone please turn down the thermostat? It’s still a little warm in here.

Looking Forward

Holy Lost in Space Batman! It has been far too long since I last posted on the blog.  To say things have been a little crazy would be a gross understatement.

Since the last post, we have sold my mom’s house, she has moved in with us, she’s been in the hospital for a short but informative stay, I’ve progressed with the men’s ministry at our church, added a youth small group to the mix and bought a banjo that I am momentarily teaching myself to play. All this added to the grand scheme of things that is a home with two tweener kids, a dog who has a paper fetish and the normal crazy of job and general life. Days are going by at warp speed and I feel like I’m just barely hanging on by my finger nails with my face plastered back like one of those astronaut trainees in the G-load centrifuge at NASA.

We’re really close on this house thing for my mom. I’ve been the point man on this along the way, keeping my sister and middle brother in the loop and making sure they get to weigh in on ideas, decisions, etc.  The funniest part to me is, even though I know I am the youngest child, a mere 49 years of age, I still laugh at the reaction/encouragement I get from my sister and brother, both or whom are much older than me.  They thank me and tell me what a great job I’m doing with mom and the issues at hand in a manner that makes me feel like, if not sound like, I’m 14 years old. It’s not offensive nor intended to be so.  Just very humorous to me. It seems they know so little about me and where I’ve been and what I’ve experience with in my life that to see me perform what I think is just mundane seems to them to be beyond the scope of expected reason. I know I will forever be the “little brother” and shouldn’t expect perceptions to change any time soon.

Then there is the banjo. Oh how glorious this is to me. If you have read any of my posts you know I have a passion for camping, hiking and all things hammock related.  In a way of speaking, I’ve reached the limit of what I will do with these things.  That is not to say I am bored with them. Not at all. However, I have achieved a level of equilibrium let’s say.   I have the right gear and the right skill sets for the activities I will participate in and while still open to learning new ideas, I haven’t seen anything that blows my kilt up in this area and am happy where I’m at in the field.  I’m still active and doing, just content in the processes at present.

That being said, I came across some Christian music and noted, to my surprise, the appearance of banjo in the music. This was intriguing to me so further investigation was warranted.  I began to find more and more music that had banjo in the sets and began thinking how other music that I love would lend itself to banjo interpretations.  J.S. Bach for one such example is very much a candidate and sounds awesome done on banjo.

From there the research began in earnest into banjos, types, playing styles, brands, starters to the most beautiful and expensive ladies I have ever seen.  You should know that I’ve played guitar for years. Nothing professional but well enough to hold my own in a jam session and could play in front of people without the flop sweats.

Now I have her. A brand new Recording King R36 Mahogany banjo and she is a beauty. I’ve only had her about two weeks but I’m learning the basic rolls and a few chords to start. I still need to finish out a few bits of the kit like a cradle strap and a good hard case. Once that is done, the search for a competent banjo teacher will be in order. I want to make certain that I don’t develop any bad habits with regard to technique in the early stages.  Hammocks were great to do by myself and if I made a mistake, generally, the only person I hurt was me. Banjo is a much more public matter. People will have to endure to some level the horror stories I create on this thing so out of compassion and consideration for the general public and my immediate family, I owe it to everyone to learn correctly, and quickly.  I know the curve will be steep and long. Don’t even care. I’m hoping to be able to hang with the praise band at church for the most part and please myself and family with the selections I can learn. This will likely, at my age, be the last musical adventure I will take.  This is something I can do as I age and will fit my persona well.  A little laid back, a little bit of a show off and one who love to praise God in as many forms and fashions as possible.

I can’t wait for the weather to begin cooling down so I can get back out in the hammock.  For those of my hammock friends who read my blog, rest easy. The banjo will not be showing up at group hangs anytime in the near future. In a year or two, however, all bets are off.  Looking forward to making another trip to that campsite on the Nantahala River and playing banjo hidden in the trees for everyone passing by in their rafts.  Yea, I’m a little sick like that.

Lot’s to look forward to in the coming months.  Life is life and life is good regardless of the circumstances. I’ll keep posting and maybe soon….you’ll hear banjo music.

The Danger of Thinking Out Loud

We love our house. Well, maybe love is too strong a term, but it certainly fills our needs, is nicer than what 90% of the global population live in, and  we’ve lived in it for about 15 years so, perhaps we really like it is a better way to state the case.

We have real estate on the brain however, because we are in the process of putting my 86 year old mother’s home on the market with the intention for her to move in with or closer to us so we can help her manage this segment of her life. Doctors visits, the occasional emergency room trip, groceries, car repair, home repair, general stuff of life that, although she is a very energetic 86, still presents challenges or minor complications.  Being the youngest son, and the best looking I might add, it falls to me to stand in the gap for mommasita.

My wife is a lurker. She is Mrs. Cravitz on steroids.  If the reference means nothing to you, just research the 70s TV show Bewitched and the busybody neighbor peeping through the blinds and you’ll have my sugerbooger.  She’s not malicious or conspiratorial in any manner.  She just keeps up with what goes on in the neighborhood…..with everyone…..all the time. Couple this with a husband who could barely care less about the goings on of the neighbors, within reason, and she is often frustrated in her informational efforts to update me.

So it was no surprise that she was watching the Realtor pages for every new addition that hits the market in our area. In our conversations, it come up that there is a house just a couple streets over in another neighborhood, that is larger, has four bedrooms, a mother-in-law area and is selling dirt cheap. Turns out the place is so cheap because it was built in 1970….and hasn’t been updated since. This is 70’s decorating at its height.  I’m talking green gold formica, wood paneling, mother-of-pearl in resin counters in the master, deep ocean blue carpet in the formal living area and God save us from robin’s egg blue bath fixtures and the list could go on.  Not to worry, I can look past all of that because I’m thinking excellent candidate to gut and renovate this monkey, still keeping a big chunk of equity, earn even more equity, keep a house note at the same level we are now and have a much larger home with the option for mom to hang with us should she decide that is the route she wanted to go.

So let me say it again.  We really like our home.  Sure we would tweak a little here or there but as Yoda would say, “Satisfied, we are”. We do not HAVE to sell our home. For any reason. It is NOT a gotta do this.  This was just one of those moments where I saw what would seem to be a really good deal and a unique opportunity for us to do something better all the way around and still keep the budget sound.

So we go look at the house. With a realtor. Who happens to be from our church. Great guy. Fairly aggressive.

I’m not sure how many times I reiterated that I don’t have to sell my home, am not looking to sell my home, this was just a fact finding mission to see if this might be something we wanted to consider.  I quit counting after about 10 times and we were in the car still trying to back out of the driveway.

I wasn’t wasting the man’s time. Had things checked out or confirmed what I thought about the house layout, we would have gotten pretty serious pretty quick. However, this is the danger of thinking out loud. Problem was we couldn’t, or perhaps didn’t feel it appropriate for us to, just walk up to the house and ask the old lady, “Hey, can we nose around your house for a half hour and see if we might want to think about buying it.  Asking the realtor was the way to go but we told him up front what we were thinking. Operative word being, thinking. our motives were pure and intentions honorable. We’re just thinking out loud.

Thinking is not action. Action is action. Movement is action. Thinking simply infers intention which can change as easily as the wind direction.  Now I have this really sweet real estate guy following me around like a puppy asking what am I looking for, where would I like to be, what is my price range and on and on and on. Plus a weekly encounter at church where we’ll be asked persistently about our plans. Remember, I don’t have to nor necessarily want to sell my home. It was just one of those lightning flashes that caught our eye and we thought, what if.

That’s what I get for “thinking” well intentioned thoughts.

A young man once said, “The pathway to hell is paved with good intentions”.  I see this daily.  Not only in the lives of those I interact with but in my own walk as well.  Sadly, what most Christians are called to these days is not so much an abiding faith in a Savior who can change our lives in amazing ways, but to think these thoughts and do these things and ask what’s in it for me.  Good intentions, but falling just short of what I believe God is asking us to commit to.

I believe, and the scripture will back me up here, we, I am, being called to be a disciple first. A person who seeks to know God and His Son more deeply today than yesterday. Not just a doer.  Note I didn’t say doer of the word. I see folks being brought into the church all the time and told, so glad you are here, can you teach, can  you serve here, can you do this or that? Many are able and are truly disciples of Christ, but sadly, many more are still getting their feet under them in a sense to know who and what Christ is in their life. So they serve, or teach, or do and ultimately they are lead to believe that “doing something” is what the Christianity thing is all about and the person behind it all, the purpose behind it all is unknown or not fully understood.  So when temptation comes, they are not strong enough. When they get burned or burned out, faith let them down. It wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

A person who knows the discipleship of Christ in their life will serve, will teach, will meet the needs of the broken and hurting around them. It won’t be on a punch list. It will be done because their hearts compel them to do it. Because their hearts are so full of what God is doing in them that it is overflowing and drowning them.  Because Jesus loved them so much and did the same for them that they can’t think of any other thing to do but love other people. They will see an opportunity for something and they will go to it. They won’t have to change where they are or what they are doing perhaps. They just want to be a part of that thing for the glory of God. To show His greatness because He was great to them in so many ways.  In the greatest way.

So here’s to living out loud. To knowing who we are in Christ first, and keeping open to what He places in our path so we can love others at least a fraction of the massive measure He gives to us. To seeing the opportunity to love another the way Christ loves us and taking a flyer.  Doing is great and honorable and worthy and needed. Doing from a heart that is generating an overflow because of the influence of Christ is the key.

It’s just a shame I have to let the realtor in on the idea.

A Grateful Father

Father’s day has come and gone. It was a good Father’s day. A gift or two. Nothing spectacular event wise. Just a quiet day at home with the kids.  There was video game time with the boy and story and Bible study time with the girl. She had a special time with dad this morning at after school care where they had a Dad’s and Donuts get together. Nothing fancy, just a time for the kids to serve dad a doughnut and sit together and just be present.

It was definitely present. Baby girl, who is nine by the way, served me a doughnut and some water and sat with me. We colored on the table paper and talked a little about what the day would hold for us both.

Every dad thinks his daughter is beautiful. Known fact. They may not say it but they all do.  Mine is no exception. She is adorable inside and out. What’s more is she knows it. This is how she signs all her cards to me.  “From your adorable Bailey…”  What a ham. I take every opportunity to tell her she is beautiful.  She won’t measure up to the corporate, global mishmash of what beauty is in the world at large. But she will know her value as a young woman. Her daddy will set that exchange rate and it will be steep. I pray she won’t give herself cheap to some boy because she thinks it’s the physical that denotes love. She’s a sweet girl but she can be sneaky mean and tough as an anvil when she feels like she is being taken advantage of. God help the boy that breaks her heart. He’s likely to have a broken nose for his lack of concern for her feelings.

So as I’m sitting at work in the midst of the madness that is a Monday in the work world, I was struck, suddenly and profoundly by the blessings of my wife, my son and my daughter. I had no other response but to stop what I was doing, bow my head and express my gratitude to my God for these amazing gifts. Deep is the love I have for them and deep is the awe in which I stand wondering if God really knew what He was doing giving me these lives to shape and share. Surely, I am not worthy of such things. Wretched as I am. Weak and broken and flawed.

Deep is the gratitude on this day after father’s day for these gifts, and all things, good, bad and indifferent in my life. For God is using these things, all of them, to shape me into the man he wishes for me to be. The man he created me to be. The father, the husband, the son.

Yea, it was a GREAT Father’s day. Best one yet, because THE father reminded this father of the blessings he has given me and the joy of it all in my life.

A Hike by Any Other Name…

Thoughts running like the waters of the river over the folds of my mind. Too many to count and too much to try and keep up with. This is going to be harder than I thought. To post up the experiences and thoughts of this one trip. This will be little more than a trip report of sorts. I will have to sort through so much more and process so much more before I can post further and in more depth.

First, as a section hike, this was a miserable failure. I’ll explain as we go and hopefully it will make sense.  As a hike/camp to think on deeper issues in my faith and life, it was an unqualified success.  This will be explained later in other posts.

The trip started with such promise and anticipation. Sitting in the airport in my home town waiting to catch a flight that would take me farther away from the AT to ultimately get me closer to the AT. This is the nature of modern, post 9/11 air travel. I had to fly from MS to Houston to get to Atlanta. Metal meat tubes more than rapid transit. Shoved together like sardines surrounded by impatient, irrational, self-important grouses. I forgot how much I hated air travel. I calmed myself by doing a mental count down of the hours when I would be on a trail, THE trail, with no one around. Just the sound of my feet, the wind and the woods. The thought was transcendent.  Landing in Atlanta, waiting another 45 minutes to get my pack, which thankfully, made it without issue or blemish, I was continually asked about my kilt. One guy asked where’d I get it. Another lady asked if I got asked, well, “the question” alot. I told her there were two standard responses to “the question”. First, “There’s nothing worn down there…everything is in perfect working order.” and lastly, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”  Admittedly, not a proper response from a Christian male, but I admit that I’m fallen and only use it when I know I won’t be taken up on the offer nor will it embarrass the quixotic too much.  Seriously, why do women feel they can ask such a question of a man in a kilt. I’d get slapped stupid-er, asking that of women. Just one more of life’s nagging questions.  I even had one chap ask me if I was in the military and British. No, just a civilian and Scots-Irish. He still liked the look.

Got picked up promptly by my ride. I highly recommend Ron Brown’s shuttle service.  He is timely, knowledgeable and a kick in the pants to talk to. He won’t do you wrong.  Tell him the guy he shuttled to the NOC that looked like Stone Cold Steve Austin recommended him.  He’ll get the joke and a laugh.

With all the flight delay, luggage delay and traffic in Atlanta delay I was, you guessed it, delayed in getting to the trail when I had hoped.  The original plan was to get to Sassafras Gap Shelter, just under 7 miles, by sunset or really close to it.  I got to the NOC a little before 6 p.m.  Having only about two hours of daylight left I was determined to get as far into the trail as possible and see where I was from there to get to Fontana Dam by Sunday.

Let me first say that I have read dozens of  AT Thru hike books. Most are really good. My respect level for these persons who have gone from Georgia to Maine in a single season was very high. These are rock stars to me. They are other worldly in their stature and lore now.

The climb out of the Nantahala Gorge is, in a word, steep.  I have no other reference except to say it’s like climbing stairs in a 300 story building, minus the nice steps.  Unless you consider rocks and mud and roots “nice steps”. Also minus the air conditioning and cover overhead and anything else remotely resembling the marks of civilization.  Now before you think me a complete idiot given to irrational justification of conditions to be expected on the trail, it was everything I expected and wanted it to be, only more. Let’s say by a factor of 7.  Beauty that I cannot give words to. The scale of it all was beyond my imagination. Photos are not worthy of it. The climb out. Exhausting. I managed to get about a mile and a quarter in about an hour and a half. Winded doesn’t describe it. I’d have sworn I could do a COPD commercial on the spot. Elephant included. I think he was hiding in my pack.  I found a small spot on the ridge where I could hang my hammock. I didn’t put up my tarp or hang my food.  I didn’t even eat. I went straight to bed and slept from around 8 p.m. until about 5:30 a.m. the next day.

This was my fault. I should have stayed at the NOC that night and gotten a fresh start the next day. Still, I was on the trail and happy about it. The next morning I was determined to make up ground. I wanted to get to Sassafras Shelter and then get to Brown’s Gap Shelter or as close to it as I could. Problem 1?  I’m still going up. At least to Sassafras, then it would be basically down hill from there. Problem 2? I would have to do close to 14 miles that day to meet that goal. That is insane for a novice on day two of the trail he is supposed to be having fun on. Problem 3? It hurts. I figured it would be my knees who would betray me. Maybe even the high ankle sprain I had a few weeks prior to leaving. Neither of these were an issue. Not even my feet gave me trouble.  The hips. At one point it felt like a hot piece of rebar had been inserted into my hips longitudinally. Burning pain with every step, out of wind, and out of time. I was reduced at times to hiking to the next switch back for a goal. Or the next blaze or the next flat spot. Mostly 150 to 200 feet at a time, rest, pray, buck up, hike another 200 feet, repeat. I got to Sassafras Gap Shelter around lunch. I ate, got water, and thought, alot. Too many miles to get to Fontana in my condition, or should I say lack of condition. Too little time to get where I wanted to be and too little known about how I might get off the trail to meet the wife and kids by Sunday for the vacation with them.  I had passed a couple small campsites coming into the shelter back up the ridge. I decided to hike to one of those spots, hang the hammock, eat and sleep.  A fresh mind and perspective would yield the proper answer in the morning.

Luckily I had hung my tarp this time as a sweetheart of a thunderstorm rolled over the mountains that night just shortly after I went to bed. The wind blew hard swaying the trees but rocking me gently in the hammock. Thunder and lightning crashed but I was protected under the ridge from any real danger and the rain, in just a few short minutes played me a lullaby as sweet as mother’s milk. A fine deep sleep, as always, in the hammock.

The next morning had me thinking fresh thoughts and coming to grips that Fontana was not going to happen with my hips in their current state. I decide to head back to the NOC and see what I could do there to salvage the trip. I had about 5 miles to go and almost all of it down hill.  I nearly lost it a few times because of the slick trail from the previous nights rain but the better part of caution, my hiking sticks and the grace and mercy of the Lord God Almighty kept me from injury and any real peril.

As I was hiking the last half mile into the NOC shortly after noon, at the base of the ridge about twenty feet up from the river was a campsite. Open with a fire ring and trees that looked just far enough apart for me to hang my hammock.  I had decided to go to the NOC, see about a campsite or cabin and just camp for the next day until my family could pick me up on Sunday. First order of business…FOOD. I had eaten my own cooking for just a couple days and it was good. Really good. But I wanted something more substantial. Something someone else had made for me and not in a freezer bag.  Pizza at the River’s Edge was the right salve to sooth that ache and I took my time with it.  It was glorious.  Next out the door and across the street to the General Store to inquire about campsites. To my surprise the clerk stated they didn’t have campsites on the campus to offer.  I asked about the site I had seen back up the river a bit, whether it was part of his lot and he said no.  That was all I needed to hear.  I couldn’t have asked for a better place to camp. Just a few yards from the river up on the bluff overlooking. Covered but not so much so that I couldn’t watch the rafters and kayakers float by.  I’d have give anything to have a banjo to play as they floated by.

So, as I said, as a section hike, an utter failure. I still had an excellent time. Truly, sincerely, an amazing time. For all the pain, unrealized expectations and logistical issues, it was something I will never regret. I had mentioned in other posts that this was a test of sorts. To see if I had it in me to do a through hike.  I discovered I am a hammock camper, not a hammock hiker.  I could day hike the devil out of the AT if I lived closer and may yet get the chance to do that. Who knows what things God has in store for this soul. However, multi-day hikes on a trail of this caliber is not in my cards.

When my wife met me on that Sunday, the kids running up to hug daddy, an awesome event in and of it self, she asked was I okay. I was. Physically I was still sound if not worn and I was good otherwise too.  I had come to grips with some things on the trail. I told her she wouldn’t have to worry about me doing another hike like this on the AT.  She was so gracious. She didn’t dance on the grave of my dream. She knew that was what it was. A dream I had held for some time and now it was not going to be the same. She’s a good woman, my wife. She let an old fool chase another woman called the AT and still return home when he learned she was a bitter mistress. Not fond of old bones and poor conditioning. She welcomed me home to her embrace with grace and dignity and allowed me to keep my dignity. She was sorry for my loss. She understood my simple sadness.  Later we would laugh together at the trials of the trail and how much I had learned in those four day.

So now I’ve spent nearly 2000 words telling you how hard it was.  What will I say about it all to sum it up?  GO!.  Do it!  Even if it hurts, it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Be in shape.  Don’t push too hard in the early stages, but go for it. The AT in the southern vernacular is a Heifer. She will break you.  Maybe not physically. Maybe mental.  Maybe emotional. But she will break you. In the brokenness there is something far more valuable. There is wisdom, clarity, peace, understanding. God used the AT to humble me in ways I needed to be humbled. I praise Him for it. I know myself better today than I have in the past decade.  What an amazing God, who creates the mountain to inspire and to teach. To break down and to build up. To humble and to strengthen. To strip away the duff to reveal the granite of a life built on Him.

So there ya go. The trip in a nut shell.  Now what?  Now, go take a hike.